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ICYMI: THE Top 10: Reasons to make Hawaii part of the ABA Area

Editor’s Note: The discussion regarding the addition of Hawaii to the ABA Area is ongoing, and we encourage ABA members to make their views known by filling out a proxy ballot answering this question. We hope you have also seen the August 2016 issue of Birding magazine. To continue that conversation, here’s a piece from George Armistead from May of 2012 offering some reasons why Hawaii inclusion is something that the ABA membership should consider, and a reminder of how long this particular discussion has been at the front of many North American birders’ minds.

A recent poll on the ABA Facebook page posted by ABA member Morgan Churchill showed that a decided majority of those polled thought that Hawaii should be added to the ABA area. This would mean that birds seen in Hawaii could be added to birder’s North American lifelist. A heated discussion ensued. Below are my top 10 (utterly subjective) reasons why the addition of Hawaiʻi seems logical and/or desirable.


Red-tailed Tropicbird at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai (by G. Armistead).

10. The Iʻiwi 

One of the most awesome birds on earth, and a trip to Hawaiʻi provides birders a good chance to see it. Pronounced “ee-ee vee”, the species produces a variety of sounds and one of the most oft-heard calls is that for which it is named; a cartoonish approximation of a car-horn, “be-BEE beep”. How the Hawaiian Goose, the “Nene”, got top billing as the state bird over the Iʻiwi is anybody’s guess.


Iʻiwi in Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaii (by G. Armistead).


 9. Great Trip for SOBs

Those of us with non-birding spouses quickly learn how imperative it is to keep your non-birding half content, if you hope to achieve your birding objectives. Happily, Hawaii is a great place for birders and for spouses-of-birders, a.k.a. “SOBs” (what did you think I meant?). After you’ve gotten in a good day of searching for Anianiau or Omaʻo, you can meet your better half back at the beach for a little snorkeling, a happy hour cocktail, and some fine dining. Your spouse can tell you about their day relaxing on the beach, paddle-boarding, or checking out volcanoes and waterfalls. There’s plenty to do for everyone in Hawaii. It’s a win-win.


 8. See the Kauaʻi Birds Before They Are Gone 

The forest in Kauaʻi gets quieter all the time. Even just five years ago birds like Akikiki and Akekeʻe were fairly easily found. Their numbers have declined to the point that finding them now is rather difficult on a short visit. Adding Hawaiʻi to the ABA area might inspire some birders to go and see these unique species before they disappear forever.


 7. More Birder Attention = Improved Conservation?

Over 33% of the listed endangered birds in the U.S. are Hawaiian, yet they receive only 4% of the federal funds dedicated to recovery actions (Leonard 2008). The two species that receive the most funding are the Hawaiian Crow and the Palila, yet most of the money they receive is due to lawsuits filed on their behalf, compelling the USFWS to expend resources on their recovery.

If birders knew more about Hawaii’s native birds and the threats facing them, perhaps the dollars might flow a little more freely in their direction. George Wallace of the American Bird Conservancy says that adding Hawaii to the ABA area “has great value in raising awareness about the species and their plight and may attract new supporters for conservation action.” Many Hawaiian birds are still easily found, but for how long?


 6. You might get to see a Humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa 

A what!!? You know, a Humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa… or, if you prefer a Reef Triggerfish, the state fish. They are cool, and if you do a little snorkeling while in Hawaiʻi, there’s a good chance you’ll see one. The crazy Hawaiian name means “fish that grunts like a pig”.


 5. You’ll get to learn the Hawaiian Alphabet

There’s not too much to it, though it does take a little practice. With just 13 letters it doesn’t take long. The Hawaiian Alphabet consists of the 5 vowels (never “y”), and 8 consonants: h, k, l, m, n, p, w, and the ʻokina. The ʻokina is that backwards-looking apostrophe-like thing, which represents a glottal stop.


4. Some Sweet Seabirds

While the forest birds on Hawaiʻi are indeed awesome, the seabirds sort of steal the show, and many can be seen right from shore. Tapping into these for one’s ABA list would sure be satisfying. White Terns nest right in Waikiki, and a timely visit to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge should net you stupendous views of two tropicbird species, Great Frigatebird, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Laysan Albatross, and a sulid or two. There are places on Kauaʻi where one must “brake for albatrosses”; heed those “albatross crossing” signs! (I can’t think of any other spot in the world other than Taiaroa Head in New Zealand where you can find drive-up albatrosses). Pelagic trips off Hawaii yield other goodies too, such as Mottled Petrel, Christmas Shearwater, and Bulwer’s Petrels among others.


Wedge-tailed Shearwater over the Kaulakahi Channel (by G. Armistead).


 3. Twitch Exotics

Few places in the world have been more befouled by releases of alien bird species than Hawaii. The impacts have been severe, but even in spite of that it is still kind of fun to see free-ranging Kalij Pheasants, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Lavender Waxbills, White-rumped Shamas, or to hear the far carrying calls of the Hwamei. These are just a few of the many introduced bird species that the ABA checklist committee would have to consider adding to the official checklist, should Hawaii be added to the ABA area.


 2. The Akiapola’au

One of the state’s most sought-after birds is the strange and charming Akiapolaʻau; often just referred to as the “Aki”. This is a species we want on the ABA list… Have you seen the bill on that thing!? Also, it behaves like a woodpecker, but is sort of more nuthatch-like in GISS. It uses its straight peg-like mandible to hammer away at the branches of the Koa tree, and then uses its absurdly slender, decurved maxilla to extract insect larvae. Few bird species in the world sport a more specialized bill.


Akiapola’au on Hawaii (by G. Armistead).


1. It’s a state after all…

Why should the 50th state be excluded? Sure there are reasons to consider including Greenland, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Puerto Rico in the ABA area, but let’s start by including each of the 50 states. If I were a birder in Hawaii I’d be pretty bummed out that the big national birding organization of my country chose to omit my state from its treatment of “North America”. There are not a ton of birders in Hawaii, but we are talking about some cool folks out on these islands. We could all learn a lot from each other.

Bottom line:

Making people more cognizant of Hawaiian birds and the challenges they face could pay dividends for conservationists. The 50th state could use a little help, and I say we give it to them. Also, birding in Hawaii is fun. Hawaiian birding veterans will note that I didn’t even mention that Bristle-thighed Curlew is a lot easier to see in Hawaii than in Alaska. And, there are a bunch of endemics, a unique subfamily (Drepanidinae) of finches, some sweet seabirds, and few places offer more beautiful scenery, and have such fantastic food. We are lucky enough to have one little corner of the Polynesian Triangle in our country, so why not take full advantage?

If you would like to support the conservation and protection of Hawaiian birds then consider making contributions to the:

American Bird Conservancy

Pacific Rim Conservation



My thanks to Eric VanderWerf, Peter Pyle and George Wallace for their contributions to this article.


Leonard, D.L. Jr. 2008. Recovery expenditures for birds listed under the US Endangered Species Act: The disparity between mainland and Hawaiian taxa. Biological Conservation 141:2054-2061.

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George Armistead

George Armistead

George Armistead is a lifelong birder and since April 2012 is the events coordinator for the ABA. George spent the prior decade organizing and leading birding tours for Field Guides Inc. He has guided trips on all seven continents, and enjoys vast open country habitats and seabirds most of all. Based in Philadelphia, he is an associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and spends much of his free time birding the coast between Cape May, NJ and Cape Hatteras, NC.
  • Anonymous

    Top 1 Reason it shouldn’t be part of the ABA area: It isn’t biogeographically part of North America.
    All your reasons are just reasons to go birding in Hawaii, not reasons it should be part of the ABA area.

    • Cole G.

      Exactly. Things like seeing a fish with a cool name is not a legitimate reason to change the ABA area in my opinion. Yes, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a is interesting, but it is completely irrelevant in my opinion.

  • Ted Floyd


  • Paul Hurtado

    ” 1. It’s a state after all…”
    Right… because that’s why we include Canada.

  • Biogeography? Really? Southeast Arizona and the Lower Rio Grande Valley is biogeographically Mexican, yet people still count their ABA birds there.

    • Peter Thompson

      Yeah but you can’t just have one county that is geographically connected to the ABA be not part of that area. The border is a good place to draw that line, not just some random boundary.

  • Ted Floyd

    Paul, you’re onto something, whether or not you realize it. (You’re a very smart chap, so maybe you’re playing shill?)

    Anyhow, the fascinating thing is, Canada WAS intended, back in the day, by the ABA’s founding fathers, to be the 50th state–i.e., for listing purposes. It’s all in vol. 0 no. 0 (1968) of Birding.

    Now I realize most of y’all don’t have access to vol. 0 no. 0 of Birding, but here’s a summary that puts things in perspective:

    One (of many) thought(s) that occur(s) to me: If we go by the founder’s intentions (sheesh…), then all of Canada contributes to your ABA total-tick list in the same manner that, say, New Hampshire or California contributes. Your Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario together constitute 1 ABA Area total-tick.

    Which is plainly silly.

  • Alex Watson

    Birding is a game, I get that. But personally, I feel all this sounds nuts to non-members or on-the-fence potential members. I have succeeded in getting my retired dad to go birding nearly every day (zero participation 5 years ago and we bring my son, 3 generations!). A major step, but there is no way he can ever make the move to membership; your making the bridge from watching birds to participation in the ABA a very long distance to travel. This stuff just doesn’t make sense to a lot of birders. I hope you consider this when planning how large you can potentially grow your ranks. Put this issue to bed and stop scaring new members with arcane arguments. Obviously, I’m a birder that feels marginalized by issues like this.

  • Another reason the biogeographic argument falls flat is that northern Mexican states are not in the ABA area, even though they share biogeography with our southwestern states. We can count Canada, but not Baja California? This aspect of the ABA birding area has never made sense to me, and I actually delayed joining because of it. Plus, it seems to me that counting the Aleutians as part of North America is really stretching it.

  • Morgan Churchill

    Canada is sandwhiched (is that even a word?) between the lower 48 and Alaska, and is almost completely contiguous with the USA and is part of North America. All of Canada is presently included, unlike the USA, where one fairly important state has been left out.

  • Morgan Churchill

    But that is already the case. Large chunks of Alaska are as expensive (or even more expensive, given access issues) than Hawaii. Alaska, including the outer Aleutians, has always been part of the ABA area, but presumably the current inclusion of Attu doesn’t raise complaints.

    The ABA does not require a birder to see x number of species before you can join. I am sure there are plenty of ABA members who seldom bird outside there state…presumably the inclusion of 49 other states doesn’t put them off joining

  • Paul Hurtado

    Ted, you give me too much credit! 😉 I lean more towards the biogeographic interpretation of “America” in the ABA title, so my comment was just to point out that statehood isn’t what makes a region part of the ABA region. Personally, Hawaii is off my birding radar because of the price of a plane ticket and hotel room, not whether or not it counts towards my ABA list 😉

    I think there aren’t any good reasons for including Hawaii exclusively (i.e. there might be good reasons, but these should be applied to adjacent countries & provinces) and I would even stick my neck out a bit further and say that some of the conservation-based reasons mentioned above would likely turn out to be just wishful thinking. Hawaii faces some serious conservation challenges (and not just for birds!), and I really can’t see any way in which those problems will be resolved by a few dozen (or even a few hundred) extra birders each year. I have yet to run into a convincing argument or evidence suggesting that adding Hawaii to the ABA area (or not) will have any significant impact on Hawaiian habitat and species conservation.

    To elaborate on my first point, that all the other arguments would justify lots of other changes to the ABA area, look at the ten points listed here. They all boil down to “cool and/or endangered island endemics” and “lots of seabirds.” Apply one or both of those to places in the Caribbean and elsewhere and more than Hawaii would be added to the ABA area! Same with the conservation arguments, if you think of some of our island neighbors to the south.

    In the end, the ABA is primarily about the sport of birding; not conservation, not Hawaii, not biogeography – just birding. In my mind, this begs the question of “what would a redefined ABA area mean to the future course of the ABA?” Thinking about what that future course might look like, I feel a lot better just forgetting about whether or not to include Hawaii!

    Why? Because plenty of other potential changes come to mind that I’d imagine the ABA members might rather be discussing. Like, if birding is a sport, why don’t we have more local and regional competitions for students and/or regular members? Something more social than just submitting totals and reading about how you compare to your neighbors in the pages of a magazine? Why, for example, doesn’t the ABA work with the “Biggest Week in American Birding” to have a big day or big week competition in the Maggee Marsh area each year? Why isn’t there a training program for science teachers or local Audubon society representatives to act as a local coordinator of teen big day competitions each year on IMBD? Why haven’t we introduced a second game (more lists!) of competing to see the most “Field Identifiable Forms”, not just species, to add some spice to the old game? Redefining the borders of the playing field would change the game, but is that the best way to spice up the game, or build the membership, or do right by the birds?

    In the end, there are plenty of changes one could make to the ABA. Adding Hawaii is but one of them. IF anything is going to change, it’s up to the leadership and the members to really think hard about what’s worth changing and why.


    PS: Thanks for the link — great read! 🙂

  • Paul Hurtado

    Seem my comments above. In writing them down, I thought of a question I don’t yet have a good answer for:

    Why are we discussing the addition of Hawaii? Is it for Hawaii, or the ABA (or both)? If it’s for the ABA or both, what ABA goals are served by a redefined ABA area? Can we do better?

  • Charles Swift (Chaetura)

    Who exactly is being lobbied here? In other words who makes the decision? Also why are some ABA staff lobbying publicly for this change?

  • Hi Charles,

    Thanks for bringing up a couple of important questions.

    The ABA listing area is defined in the ABA’s bylaws. So a change would require a vote of the membership. Votes have been held (and rejected) on this matter before (also Bermuda) but none very recently.

    As to why ABA staff are expressing their own opinions on the matter, or perhaps more accurately trying to foster and channel an ongoing discussion that’s happening anyhow, I would say it’s because their opinions are valuable and they are good at it. Many of them are leaders in the birding community and speak from a place of vast experience and commitment to our community. Are they supposed to be silent on matters like this merely because they are ABA staff? I don’t think so, though I realize that not everyone might agree.

    I view myself, and all the ABA staff, as both servants and leaders of the ABA community and the birding community at large. So while it would be wrong for us to somehow impose our individual or collective will, it would also be wrong for us to remain silent.

    George is presenting 10 reasons he thinks adding Hawai’i to the ABA area would be a good idea. He’s inviting all our blog readers to chime in as to whether they agree or disagree, in whole or in part. He’s not saying anything bad about anyone who may not share his views.

    Simply put, Hawai’i and its inclusion in or exclusion from the ABA area is inarguably one of the issues that most energizes the membership, for or against. Staff not saying anything about it in the communication landscape of 2012 would strike me as a glaring sin of omission.

    I hope this helps clarify what is and is not going on here. And I hope we’ll hear more from you, Charles.

    Thanks for your support of the ABA,


  • Charles Swift (Chaetura)

    Thanks Jeff. So what is the process for changing the bylaws? Is this discussion a prologue to an effort to change the bylaws on this matter?

    I don’t have a particular problem w/ ABA staff lobbying/discussing but wanted to clarify what the decision making process was and how staff might be involved. This important background information had not been mentioned in a number of recent posts related to the issue which may have lead to confusion on my part (and perhaps others). There is also the possible impression (lacking sufficient information) of internal dissension within ABA staff and board which could be harmful. I have no problem w/ discussion and debate on issues but please someone (web master??) make sure all the pertinent information is on the table or it ends up looking like an insider discussion. I do also understand a comment from a previous poster that the issue could look kind of trivial from an outside perspective and possibly off-putting to potential new members.

    Thanks, Charles.
    (long time ABA member)

  • Charles Swift (Chaetura)

    As a follow-up I just read Paul Hurtado’s second post above and strongly agree with pretty much everything he mentioned. Birders should go to Hawaii for all the reasons stated in the original post (all of which I agree with) if it’s on their list of things to do (and in their budget!). I’ve been to Hawaii, it was a great experience, I didn’t care that I couldn’t count the birds on my ABA list. Thanks, Charles.

    ps my 6 y.o. daughter loves Lilo and Stitch and we will almost certainly take her to Hawaii at some point, I greatly look forward to sharing that experience with her.

  • If you wish to claim that the ABA panders only to those who treat birding as “a game”, then yes, I suppose it makes sense to exclude Hawaii from the ABA area.

    I ask, who among us actually believes that? That the ABA and birding is just “a game” and that we don’t give a rats patootie about the lives and future of the birds we spend so much time and energy trying to see?

    Who, among ABA members and those who enjoy birdwatching, doesn’t have a visceral concern about the future of native Hawaiian birdlife? How is it possible for the ABA, with the very name AMERICAN in its title, to not have Hawaii as part of its intrinsic, definitive area? Especially when it DOES include Attu, which is certainly no more part of the “biogeographic” North America than Kauai?

    The ABA area as it is defined is ridiculously arbitrary but pretends not to be. I just wish we collectively could get over ourselves and admit it. The only reason to keep that area defined as is, is to protect the egos of those who have tried over the past few decades to get big list totals for that area. In other words, screw the Hawaiian endemics, we have aging human egos to protect!

    At the very least, would it kill us to include Hawaiian birds in North American field guides? It would be so freakin’ easy to do, and it would raise awareness of birds that are part of the United States avifauna that are GREATLY endangered. It is a travesty beyond belief that we have gone so long in this country with so much abject ignorance about the fantastic birds in our own country that are on the brink of extinction, birds that no one knows or apparently even cares about.

  • Andy, you and I are on the same wavelength. I have made these exact same arguments for some time now, and I am pleased to see someone who “gets it”. Thank you.

  • Aloha everyone:

    There still seems to be more reasons to include Hawaii on the ABA List than the opposite. Here’s some of my input to support our 50th State’s inclusion to the ABA List:

    BIOGEOGRAPHY argument: There are a number of North American species that spend their winter in the islands; a large segment of the populations of Bristle-thighed Curlews (species of concern) and Pacific Golden-Plovers (establish winter territories). Many seabirds seen on West Coast pelagic trips nest primarily in the Hawaiian Islands (e.g. Laysan, Black-footed, and now Short-tailed Albatrosses

    STATEHOOD argument: Would anyone be in favor of changing the name ‘ABA Area’ to ‘North ABA Area’? For those using this argument to not include Hawaii, does this mean Hawaii residents should not be members of the ABA?

    EXPENSIVE argument: It is just as or more expensive for ABA members in Hawaii to travel to the Mainland (ABA Area).

    BIRDING IS JUST A SPORT argument: REALLY? Sounds like an argument made in 1912 instead of 2012. I think birding is much, much more than just a sport. Conservation is what allows birders to have a sport. A good example is Ducks Unlimited. Duck Stamps and hunting purchases all go to support bird conservation. It’s time for birders to do their part.

    MORE BIRDING COMPETITIONS argument: I think birding competitions are fun and a great way to improve our skills, however, I strongly believe ABA can do so much more to increase membership. Competitions are good for advanced birders but what about beginners or non-competitive birders?

    (ABA member in Hawaii)

  • Charles Swift (Chaetura)

    Jeff – I think it would be useful to have blog contributors mention their ABA affiliation in their byline. This would help to avoid some confusion.

  • Mike Ord

    ABA has had two board members from Hawaii – Bob Pyle and Mike Ord. In my last three year term I recommened to the board that Hawaii be included in the ABA area. It was shot down and only one other board member voted with me for it. One of the concerns was that many members with high ABA area bird species counts might object because of the inconvenienbce of having to go to Hawaii to count our species. Their age and ability to get around where a major concern when you consider the Hawaii terrain.

    While AOU includes Hawaii it is disappointing that ABA won’t. Some favor the ABA name change to NABA but that is unnecessary. We will still be some 2.300+ miles apart and we are losing some of our mountain species at an alarming rate.

    • cathy summa-wolfe

      Inconvenience aside, as a new birder this issue deters me from joining the ABA as it seems decidedly “un-American.” In my view it is somewhat like saying University of Hawaii students can’t be allowed to play in the NFL or MLB because they were born and live in Hawaii. Or conversely, mainland folk won’t be allowed to attend University of Hawaii and compete in sports there. I’m sure you all have your reasons and justifications for your position, but it seems odd at best. The cost issue also isn’t a good excuse because trips to Alaska are very pricey and depending on time of year there are really good deals to travel to Hawaii (Sept-Oct, April-May). Also, while you continue to debate the issue, it is likely that a number of the species will go extinct because they do not have the support from organizations like yours that strive to protect mainland species. That alone is just plain sad.

  • Charles Swift (Chaetura)

    Folks –

    Here are the ABA bylaws:

    Here is a list of the ABA board members:

    According to Jeff a change like this requires a change of bylaws which I presume needs to be initiated at the board level. So interested parties should contact individual board members to express their interest in making this change.

  • I’m pretty ambivalent about adding Hawaii to the ABA Area, I’ll make do either way, but I definitely think that adding, at least, the native Hawaiian species to the NA Field Guides would go a long way towards encouraging some sort of conservation ethic on the mainland. I’ve been a birder in NA most of my life, and yet it’s odd for me to admit that I know definitely more about the birds of Central America than I do those in Hawaii.

    So get ’em into the books.

  • Morgan Churchill

    If that is the main reason, the simplest way around it would be to recognize a classic and a new ABA area.

    At any rate, to some extent lists are not comparable over time any, due to changes in bird distribution, access to/popularity of birding locations, technology, and changes in taxonomy. Hawaii is not likely to add so many new birds that that it would render today’s top birders achievements moot.

  • In ARTICLE ONE of ABA’s bylaws: “The Association is a Texas not-for-profit charitable corporation that seeks to inspire all people to enjoy and PROTECT WILD BIRDS.” It seems to me that bird conservation is ABA.

    The CONSERVATION argument against the ABA Area including Hawaii doesn’t seem to hold any water.

    Lance Tanino
    O’ahu, Hawai’i
    ABA member

  • Can’t you make the same argument against having St. Paul Island and the rest of the Pribolof Islands in the ABA Area?

  • Ted Floyd

    Something you young’ns [insert smiley-face] don’t seem to realize is that the 2nd edition of Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds has two parts. Part 1 is mainland North America west of the 100th parallel; Part 2 is the Hawaiian Islands.

    The treatment of the Hawaiian avifauna is thorough, with beautiful color plates of the land birds and page after page of black-and-white line drawings of the water birds. Commendably, Peterson treats both introduced bird species and near-extinct & extinct species.

    It’s understandable, of course, to want to obtain the most recent field guides. But some of those guides from the mid-20th century remain brilliant and informative.

    By the way, you can get Peterson Western-2 at Amazon. Your best bet (available as of right now, anyhow) is the following: “second edition, revised and enlarged.”

  • Has the ABA Area always been the same throughout the history of the ABA? If not, when was the last time new areas were added to the ABA Area?

  • Morgan Churchill

    The average birder I suspect increasingly doesn’t use Petersen, but rather Sibley or Nat Geo. If this is about increasing awareness of Hawaiian birds, than inclusion in a ~50 year old guide probably doesn’t cut it…

  • Morgan Churchill

    In Kingbird Highway, during the time period that Kaufman was doing his big year both the Bahamas (I think…) and Baja were included. I am not sure when those were dropped, but given that the ABA old guard was actively birding, I am sure it wasn’t that controversial.

  • Ted Floyd

    That’s my point, if you take my meaning.

    Sometimes, the greatest enlightenment is to be found in the “ancient” literature.

    Sheesh, I feel like an old professor exhorting a whippersnapper young grad student… 😉

    Anyhow, and on a pragmatic note, if a field guide author is looking to include the Hawaiian avifauna in his or her North American guide, then a great inspiration and starting point would be Peterson’s Western Birds, 2nd ed.

  • Michael Retter

    This is only my recollection, so someone please correct me if I’m wrong: In the early 70s, the AOU Area was the U.S., Canada, and Baja California. There was no ABA yet, so folks doing big years (like Kaufman in Kingbird Highway) used the AOU boundaries. Once the ABA was formed with its own set of boundaries, people stopped using the AOU boundaries, effectively eliminating Baja from the area of interest. The ABA Area, to my knowledge, has never changed. The AOU Area, on the other hand, expanded at least twice, taking in Middle America and, fairly recently, Greenland.

  • Anonymous

    The boundaries on the outskirts are never going to be perfect. This imperfection is not an argument for adding a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific just because they are politically connected to the rest of the ABA area. I would not argue with taking parts of western Alaska, and maybe bits along the Mexican border out of the ABA, except that any boundary is going to seem just as arbitrary.

  • Anonymous

    “and is almost completely contiguous with the USA and is part of North America.”

    This is exactly the reason Hawaii should not be included.

  • Anonymous

    Biogeography: Yes, Hawaii shares some birds, but they are overwhelmingly different than those in North America. If we included every area that shared birds with North America we would have to include all of the Americas, the entirety of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and large portions of Europe, Africa and Asia. The line has to be drawn somewhere and the current line is reasonably good biogeographically.

    Statehood: This argument only makes sense because Hawaii is not completely nonsensical to add. But what if Puerto Rico becomes a state? What if the Philippines had remained part of the US?

    Conservation: I don’t understand this at all. Any “birder” who wouldn’t travel to Hawaii unless it was part of the ABA probably doesn’t care much about the birds anyways.

    The rest I mostly agree with.

  • I travel to Kaua’i fairly regularly, and I very much enjoy birding there. There is a desperate need to maintain the rapidly-dwindling populations of the native Kaua’i bird species. Perhaps adding Hawai’i to the ABA area would help in that regard. After all, isn’t it really about the birds? And the birds in Hawai’i are wonderful.

  • I truly believe that IF the ABA Area were to be included in the near future, many ABA members would be glad after visiting the islands. They would be very appreciative years down the road because it is more than likely some of these native birds seen today will not be around in the near future.

  • Morgan Churchill

    and the reason the Aleutians and Pribilofs should be excluded…

  • Morgan Churchill

    I don’t think seabirds make the best case here. However the landbirds do. Of all the endemics, nearly all of the species concerned have affinities with the holarctic, and some specifically with North America. This is in contrast to most of the islands of the South Pacific, which have avian affinities to each other as well as to Australasia and SE Asia. The only birds that seen to have any close affinities with Polynesia are the 3 species of monarch flycatcher and maybe the Millerbirds. The Hawaiian honeycreepers are all related to the rosefinches, while the native thrushes, possibly the Mohos, stilt, geese, and moorhen are all NA in origin. From a faunal biogeography standpoint, it makes more sense to include Hawaii within NA than within the rest of Polynesia.

  • Morgan Churchill

    If the Nat Geo, Sibley, and other guides included Hawaii…I would probably be a lot more okay with the current ABA boundaries. Let’s hope these discussions inspire people behind future editions of those guides

  • All,

    I want to thank everyone for reading and also for the thoughtful comments. It has been really interesting to read all the different responses.

    My intention with any blogpost is to try and highlight issues important and/or interesting to the ABA membership. Hawaii is one such point of interest, and is also a place I have spent a lot of time and that I am fond of. My personal opinion as a long-time ABA birder is that it should be part of the ABA area.

    To me, biogeography matters not at all with this issue. Political boundaries do not in the least adhere to biogeographic boundaries so whether or not Hawaii shares any biogeographic qualities with the rest of the ABA area or not is of no consequence to me. In my mind the ABA Area should include all of Canada and the U.S. That Hawaii is part of the U.S. and not included seems odd to me, and a bit of a shame given its uniqueness. I agree with those that think the state should be covered in our field guides.

    My two cents, and thanks again so very much for all the input!
    Hope to see you out birding soon.

  • I love the birds, oh my goodness look at how beautiful they’re.

  • Jim

    Agree. If someone is worried about biogeography, he or she can bird focusing on the AOU area which is pretty sound from a biogeographic point of view. The ABA area as presently constituted is not. It should either extend into Meso-America to somewhere in Nicaragua (See Steve Howell in his “Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America”), or exclude some of the areas that people have mentioned above. Why not have an area that is purely defined by political borders? Don’t most listers who keep state and county lists go by boundaries that are totally indefensible from a biogeographical point of view? Don’t many people keep country lists? The problem is that the ABA is almost believable from a biogeographic point of view (except for its arbitrary southern border) so that many think it somehow represents some kind of biogeographical reality. It does not. Most listers are into political boundaries. Why don’t we recognize that in the definition of the ABA area?

  • Anonymous2

    ABA= American Birding Association.
    hint: AMERICAN.

    Hawaii = Part of America! yes it is!

    ABA Area –> should at the very least include “America”…. which should at the very least include

      ALL of AMERICA

    Conclusion: Add Hawaii.

    Anyone who disagrees: can go to purgatory

    • Cole G.

      What about Canada and American overseas territories like Guam and Puerto Rico?

      • The short answer is that, based on a recent poll of ABA members, the membership is generally in favor of adding Hawaii to the ABA Area and is not in favor of adding the overseas territories at this time.

  • Anonymous2

    Why not go with the political boundary? It’s the American Birding Association, not the Guatemalan Birding Association. Geez, grow a pair, and accept Hawaii as part of the U.S.

  • Ted Cleaver

    South America is America too
    Let’s include that!

    Does anyone really believe that they are unable to ABA list report birds seen in Hawaii up to the present? The ABA list report already includes USA as an entity. It also includes Hawaii as an entity. How many people send in Hawaii list totals already? How many have USA totals greater than their ABA totals already? Those brave and stalwart listers are not afraid to bird Hawaii.

    ABA staff would no doubt get their way paid to the inevitable ABA-sponsored activities to celebrate the additon of Hawaii to the ABA Area. But, not to worry, unlike most people they are above seedy self-interest like that. Or might it motivate them to keep on polling until they get the result they want?

    BTW, a Facebook “poll” is of limited value from the outset as an indicator of member opinion as it polls only the subset who practice Facebook. I can’t tell if the “poll” excludes non-ABA members or not. If not, it’s of even less value.

    • Jeff Gordon

      Hi Ted, All I can say to your assertion about ABA staff wanting to “get their way paid” to Hawaii is this: Seriously now, just how dumb do you think we are? If any of us wants to bird Hawaii, or visit Hawaii for any set of reasons, there are far more efficient ways to achieve that goal. Indeed, a number of us already have birded there and we could go back. Please, give us just a bit more credit. Also, setting up and working an event is a pretty different undertaking than attending one. That’s why people pay to do the latter and get paid to do the former. Think of an airplane. Yes, everybody gets to make the trip, but would you assert that the pilot and crew are wanting to “get their way paid” to Seattle, or Chicago, or wherever? I doubt it. I’ve got no issue with you expressing your opinions; that’s what this blog is for. But it’s not for hurling thoughtless insults. Please avoid doing so in the future. Good birding, Jeff

  • Ted Cleaver

    Purgatory is not included in the ABA area so I won’t be going there…..excepting the ski area in Colorado. I would gladly go there.

  • Cole G.

    Would adding Hawaii include the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Midway, French Frigate Shoals, etc.)?

    • Hawaiian birders include Midway as part of their own listing area, as it’s an enclave within the islands. The ABA would mirror that decision.

      • Cole G.


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